Rare car-train fatality accident in Tulsa

Monday, February 13th 2006, 3:39 pm
By: News On 6

A full size car was no match for a train Sunday night in Tulsa. One man was killed and another seriously hurt when a train hit their car.

News on 6 reporter Emory Bryan says for Tulsa County, fatal crashes at railroad crossings are rare. For Tulsa Police it's frustrating to have even one. Tulsa Police Sgt. Mike Parsons: "ending up striking the vehicle when it was avoiding the emergency equipment and the safety barriers."

The accident Sunday night, happened despite flashing red lights and crossing arms that were down across the roadway. As the train approached, according to police, the car went around the arms and was hit on the passenger side by the eastbound train. The crossing where the accident happened is almost always busy with traffic.

Trains have a 40-miles-per-hour speed limit at the crossing and cars go just as fast. There are 239 railroad crossings in Tulsa County, and 42 of them have lights and arms that block the roadway, like the Sheridan crossing.

The last accident at that crossing was in 2004 and the last injury there was in 1991. All the warning signs were working and the driver couldn't have possibly missed them, but going southbound, if a driver goes around the arms - there wouldn't be much time to see a train coming. Tulsa Police officer Craig Murray: "red lights don't alway stop them, the bells don't always stop them, the arms are supposed to stop them, but sometimes we have someone who doesn't want to wait and they die because of it."

It's illegal to go around the arms or go past the lights when they're flashing. But the chance of a $120 fine doesn't compare to the risk of trying to beat the train.

Over the last few years, collisions at rail crossings nationwide have dropped, in part because some of the less traveled crossings were closed.

At crossings with no lights, trains are required to blow a whistle at least 20 seconds before entering the intersection.